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Alzheimer’s and dementia support services in Lowestoft and Waveney to be cut

PUBLISHED: 07:35 19 March 2017

Linda Stead (right) and Ann Follows are upset that funding for dementia support groups has been withdrawn in the Waveney area.
PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Linda Stead (right) and Ann Follows are upset that funding for dementia support groups has been withdrawn in the Waveney area. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

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Vital support for dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers and their families is to be reduced in Lowestoft and Waveney from April.

The Alzheimer’s Society has lost its contract with Suffolk County Council to provide face to face, telephone and group support in the county.

Instead, the county council has appointed Sue Ryder to provide a new service but the agreement does not cover Lowestoft and Waveney.

Waveney District Council has stepped in to plug the gap with the launch of two monthly dementia cafés paid for from its community fund.

However, the funding is only available for a year and is meant to stimulate the development of self-sustaining local dementia support provision.

Linda Stead, a former community befriender for someone with dementia, is calling for the support to be reinstated and has written to Waveney MP Peter Aldous.

She said: “It will be a huge blind spot. How can Suffolk County Council get away with not funding services in one part of the county. Lowestoft and Waveney is a huge area with growing dementia rates.”

Ann Follows, whose husband Mike has dementia, was referred to the Alzheimer’s Society in Lowestoft two years ago.

She said the practical and emotional support she received from the local team had changed her life and many people would struggle without it.

A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society welcomed the council funding for the two new dementia cafés.

She said people could put questions to professionals and learn from the experience of others during the informal monthly meet-ups.

In a joint statement, Beccy Hopfensperger, the council’s cabinet member for adult care, and Tony Goldson, cabinet member for health, said: “Even though Sue Ryder will not carrying out services in Waveney, it should be noted that alongside the NHS, we provide and commission a range of services to support people with dementia and their carers in Waveney, including a specialist dementia social work service and a highly regarded flexible dementia service.”

Pamela Mackenzie, Sue Ryder, director of neurological services, said the charity would be working with other organisations to run a project called Dementia Together from April.

Ann Follows’ experience

Ann Follows, whose husband Mike has dementia, praised the Alzheimers Society’s local team, who had provided her with dedicated support and advice.

“Any time I have a problem and I am not sure what is going on or who to contact I can call them,” she said. “There is nobody else with an overview.

“The council say they are putting the money somewhere else, putting it into specialist support services, but they are crisis services. They don’t realise that by taking the money away from the Alzheimer’s Society they are pulling the rug from the support.”

She said the charity’s existing support groups, which include one in Halesworth and another at St Mark’s Church in Oulton Broad, were a lifeline for sufferers and their carers.

“As a carer you live in a world of confusion, distress and loneliness,” she said. “There isn’t always somebody you can talk to who understands.”

The Alzheimer’s Society

Debbie Foster, Alzheimer’s Society operations manager for Norfolk and Suffolk, said anyone who has a diagnosis of dementia, or is currently caring for someone with dementia, could attend the new dementia cafés along with family and friends.

She added: “In addition to this, Alzheimer’s Society will offer support to develop a Dementia Action Alliance (DAA) in Lowestoft.

“Organisations, businesses and groups unite and sign up as a member of the DAA by thinking of some simple steps that would make them more dementia friendly, and these steps form their action plan.

“The aim of the DAA is to help create a community where people with dementia feel confident, understood and supported to live well.”

Anyone interested in joining an alliance can contact Geoff Moore, DAA coordinator for the East of England, by email at geoff.moore@alzheimers.org.uk or call 07802 861890.

Call 01502 514712 to find out more about the dementia cafés.

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